Monday, December 22, 2014

Reminder of regime changes past

It really is remarkable how confident American policymakers still are about the American ability to stage "regime change" operations, despite their actual record. John Prados' Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA (2006) describes how bumbling many of them have been and how even the two postwar regime-change operations considered big successes at the time - in Iran and Guatemala - were successful in large part through dumb luck.

And, of course, we're still wrestling with the consequences of the "successful" regime change operation in Iran. President Obama's decision to lift the embargo against Cuba is also a recognition of how poorly our regime-change efforts in Cuba worked. Poorly, as in total failure in Cuba's case.

I was reading an interview with German writer and political activist Günter Grass, in which he mentions in passing the democratic revolution in Portugal of 1974. (Andrej Ivanji, Günter Grass: "Der dritte Weltkrieg hat begonnen" Der Standard 20.12.2014) Henry Kissinger was then Republican President Gerald Ford's Secretary of State. And as Grass reminds us, he regarded the revolution much as he regarded Salvador Allende's elected government in Chile and wanted to handle it the same way, i.e., to overthrow the democratic government and substitute and authoritarian dictatorship. As Grass says, Willy Brandt was then head of the Socialist International, the international organization of social-democratic parties, and the SI had much more significance as a leadership group than it does now. (It has very little at all now.) But, in Grass' account, Brandt in particular along with other social-democratic leaders, blocked Kissinger's regime-change aspirations for Portugal.

The American record on regime change hasn't improved much since 1974.

Pat Kennelly reports on the status of one of our more recent regime-change adventures in The Unspeakable in Afghanistan Truthout 12/21/2014:

2014 marks the deadliest year in Afghanistan for civilians, fighters, and foreigners. The situation has reached a new low as the myth of the Afghan state continues. Thirteen years into America’s longest war, the international community argues that Afghanistan is growing stronger, despite nearly all indicators suggesting otherwise. Most recently, the central government failed (again) to conduct fair and organized elections or demonstrate their sovereignty. Instead, John Kerry flew into the country and arranged new national leadership. The cameras rolled and a unity government was declared. Foreign leaders meeting in London decided on new aid packages and financing for the nascent ‘unity government.’ Within days, the United Nations helped broker a deal to keep foreign forces in the country, while simultaneously President Obama declared the war was ending—even as he increased the number of troops on the ground. In Afghanistan, President Ghani dissolved the cabinet and many people are speculating the 2015 parliamentary elections will be postponed.
While the exact role of the US in the change of regime in Ukraine earlier this year is contested, it's very clear from what's in the public record that neocon US Ambassador to Ukraine Victoria Nuland and the neocon-run and Congressionally funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) were actively and recklessly working for regime change against the elected pro-Russian government that was overthrown by the rebellion earlier this year. (See for instance: Angela Merkel: Victoria Nuland's remarks on EU are unacceptableUkraine crisis: Transcript of leak1ed Nuland-Pyatt call BBC News 02/07/2014; Ed Pilkington and Luke Harding, Guardian 02/07/2014)

The Institute for Policy Studies' Right Web information page on the NED (updated 03/02/2014) includes the following:

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was created by the Reagan administration in the early 1980s to push democratic reforms and roll back Soviet influence in various parts of the globe. In his 1983 speech inaugurating NED, President Ronald Reagan said: "I just decided that this nation, with its heritage of Yankee traders, ought to do a little selling of the principles of democracy."[Ronald Reagan, "Remarks at a White House Ceremony Inaugurating the National Endowment for Democracy" NED, 12/16/1983]

The private, congressionally funded NED has been a controversial tool in U.S. foreign policy because of its support of efforts to overthrow foreign governments. As the writers Jonah Gindin and Kirsten Weld remarked in the January/February 2007 NACLA Report on the Americas: "Since [1983], the NED and other democracy-promoting governmental and nongovernmental institutions have intervened successfully on behalf of 'democracy'—actually a very particular form of low-intensity democracy chained to pro-market economics—in countries from Nicaragua to the Philippines, Ukraine to Haiti, overturning unfriendly 'authoritarian' governments (many of which the United States had previously supported) and replacing them with handpicked pro-market allies."[Jonah Gindin and Kirsten Weld, "Benevolence or Intervention? Spotlighting U.S. Soft Power" NACLA Report on the Americas Jan/Feb 2007] ...

Allen Weinstein, a member of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) working group known as the Democracy Group, which first proposed the formation of a quasi-governmental group to channel U.S. political aid, served as NED's acting president during its first year. Talking about the role of NED, Weinstein told the Washington Post in 1991 that "a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."[David Ignatius, "Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups" Washington Post 09/22/1991 September 22, 1991]

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